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Save the Last Dance



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Unlike the MPAA we do not assign one inscrutable rating based on age, but 3 objective ratings for SEX/NUDITY, VIOLENCE/GORE and PROFANITY on a scale of 0 to 10, from lowest to highest, depending on quantity and context.

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Sex & Nudity
Violence & Gore
1 to 10

MPAA Rating: PG-13

After her mother dies, a suburban teen ballerina (Julia Stiles) moves to inner-city Chicago with her estranged father and gives up her dream of attending Juilliard … until she finds a new source of inspiration. Also with Sara Johnson, Sean Patrick Thomas, Terry Kinney, Fredro Starr, Vince Green, Bianca Lawson, Marcello Robinson, Kerry Washington, Karimah Westbrook, Garland Whitt, Erica Hubbard and Tai'Isha Davis. [1:52]

SEX/NUDITY 4 - Some sexual innuendo (including a mild reference to masturbation) and a kiss; also, in one scene, a boy and girl jokingly embrace and kiss each other to annoy a woman who's staring at them in disapproval. A girl tells a boy that her father will be gone all night and then they kiss passionately as they take off each other's jackets; before the scene ends, we see their bare shoulders as they stand and kiss passionately (both are obviously shirtless). During a ballet performance, a female dancer briefly lies on top of a shirtless male dancer. In a few scenes that take place in a dance club/bar, we see many girls wearing skimpy shirts and also see some boys and girls dancing suggestively with each other; in one scene, a girl bends over while dancing in front of a boy (it appears that either he or she slaps her buttocks) and briefly runs her hands up her clothed torso. A boy and girl dance somewhat suggestively together a few times; in one scene, she jokingly asks him how her buttocks look. A boy grabs a girl's clothed buttocks, then she squeezes his clothed crotch (see Violence/Gore). We see many girls wearing midriff-revealing tops.

VIOLENCE/GORE 5 - A fatal car accident is shown in glimpses: we see cars swerving, a driver's frightened expression, a car about to skid underneath a truck, then the driver's face with a little blood on the forehead (seen through the cracked windshield of the driver's overturned car). A few people in a car open fire on a group standing on the sidewalk (at least one person appears to have been shot, though no blood is visible); when shots are fired back at the car, it catches on fire and runs into a few parked cars. In a later scene, we see one of the passengers with a slightly bloody bandage wrapped around his head as he's being wheeled into an ambulance, and we see another passenger (also with a small, slightly bloody bandage on his forehead) being thrown to his knees by some police officers and then handcuffed. In another scene, a few people in a car open fire on boys playing basketball (one of the players shoots back at the car while the others fall to the ground); no one is injured, but all seem pretty shaken afterwards. In a dance club, a boy slaps something out of another's hand, throws him into a chair and a wall, and then punches and kicks him repeatedly, with great force; two other boys get involved, also punching and kicking each other. A girl is hit in the head with a basketball when another girl blocks a shot during a game; one of the girls pushes the other into a wall, one tackles the other from behind, then they roll around while slapping and scratching each other (one has a scratch on her cheek and an abrasion on her eyebrow, which is seen in several scenes afterwards). A boy holds a crying girl's face, verbally threatens her and forcefully slaps her face; he lets her go after she scratches his jacket. A boy grabs a girl's arm, pushes her against a wall and verbally threatens her. A boy yells at a girl as she's holding their crying baby. A boy kicks another in the back and knocks him to the ground, a boy punches another in the face (some blood is visible on his mouth), boys push each other a few times, a girl squeezes a boy's crotch for several seconds (in a violent rather than sexual way) after he grabs her buttocks, a teacher somewhat playfully hits the back of a boy's head to knock his hat off, and a boy somewhat playfully pushes another into a chair. A boy lifts up his shirt to reveal the handle of a gun that's sticking out of his waistband; he talks to his friends about "getting even" with someone. We see a close-up of a girl's slightly bloody foot after she's been dancing.

PROFANITY 6 - Nearly all spoken by teenagers. One F-word, lots of anatomical references (several heard in background music), some anatomical slang terms, lots of scatological references, lots of mild obscenities, lots of insults, and many racial slurs (mostly heard in background music). [profanity glossary]

DISCUSSION TOPICS - Inner-city schools, racism, racial stereotypes, interracial relationships, estranged/absentee fathers, loss of a parent, moving to a different school, teen motherhood, drive-by shootings, criminal behavior, "taking the fall" for someone, teen smoking, teens using fake IDs to get into a bar (two girls order drinks, but they never receive them), drug use (we briefly hear about a person's mother abusing drugs), homophobia (a boy uses a derogatory term when referring to a gay writer).

MESSAGE - Follow your dreams; don't let others decide your fate.

Special Keywords: S4 - V5 - P6 - MPAAPG-13

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A CAVEAT: We've gone through several editorial changes since we started covering films in 1992 and some of our early standards were not as stringent as they are now. We therefore need to revisit many older reviews, especially those written prior to 1998 or so; please keep this in mind if you're consulting a review from that period. While we plan to revisit and correct older reviews our resources are limited and it is a slow, time-consuming process.

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